There are quite a few effective ways to eliminate tobacco addiction from your life, including not buying cigarettes, setting a firm quick date, drinking more water, chewing gum, trying meditation or yoga, keeping your hands busy, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, getting enough sleep, staying positive, using nicotine replacement therapies, counting the money you saved, and many more. Some remedies are psychological, while others are behavioral and physical, but all of them can help you conquer your addiction to cigarettes.
What is Tobacco Addiction?
Tobacco addiction affects more than 1 billion people around the world, many of whom are in low-income or developing countries, where proper education and awareness campaigns are few and far between. However, even in the United States, where non-smoking campaigns are widespread, and smoking is highly restricted in many locations, there are still more than 36 million active smokers (roughly 15% of the population). Tobacco addiction is a major problem in certain parts of the world, and roughly 6 million deaths per year are directly attributed to smoking cigarettes and using tobacco products.
The addiction to smoking is actually an addiction to nicotine, an alkaloid found in the tobacco plant. When the leaves are dried and burned, the nicotine is released into the body, where it is absorbed, like any other drug. The body begins to form an addiction to nicotine very rapidly, making you crave more, despite the well known health risks associated with smoking. The reason this habit is so addictive is that it does offer a nicotine “buzz” of pleasure, is associated with stress relief, has a traditional aura of “sexiness” or “coolness” attached to it, and elevates your hear rate and mood. However, in exchange for these temporary effects, it can result in a life-long addiction and a host of health problems.
Health Risks of Tobacco Addiction
The major health risks associated with tobacco addiction include lung cancer (and other cancers), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stroke, coronary heart disease, respiratory disease, and can increase your risk of pregnancy complications, bone health, diabetes, obesity, fertility, oral health, cataracts, arthritis and weak immunity.
Cancer: The main concern of tobacco addiction is lung cancer, as many of the chemical compounds included in cigarettes, as well as the natural compounds burning in tobacco, are carcinogenic in nature. This is primarily evident in the lungs, as this is where most cigarette smoke goes, but it can also cause cancer of the gums, mouth and throat, as well as parts of the body seemingly unrelated to smoking, such as bladder, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas and colon. Research shows that 1 in 3 deaths from cancer are in some way related to tobacco addiction.
COPD: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a broad term including many progressive respiratory diseases that make it far more difficult to breathe. This can include emphysema, chronic bronchitis and severe forms of asthma. The vast majority of people who suffer from COPD are smokers or were smokers in the past.
Secondhand Smoke: What many people don’t realize is that secondhand smoke is also extremely dangerous, and nearly 900,000 deaths per year are linked to secondhand smoke inhalation. In most situations, you make the choices for your own health, but when it comes to tobacco addiction, you are also affecting the people around you in negative ways.
Coronary Heart Disease: Smoking can contribute to many of the preliminary factors for coronary heart disease, such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and physical inactivity, which is why people with heart disease are disproportionately smokers. This can drastically shorten your life span and increase your risk of blood clots, heart attacks and strokes.
Pregnancy: Smoking while pregnant significantly raises your risk of pre-term birth, low birth weight, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and stillbirths. Although it has become culturally taboo to smoke while pregnant in some parts of the world, there are other areas where women still regularly smoke while carrying their children.
Bone Mineral Density: Tobacco addiction has been shown to weaken bones and is positively correlated with premature osteoporosis, so if you are worried about bone health, quitting smoking is your first step in the right direction.
Cataracts: Studies have shown that smoking can increase the development of cataracts and clouding over of the eyes. It also increases your risk of macular degeneration, which can damage the cells in the center of the retina, making it more difficult to see.
Oral Health: Aside from various oral cancers, smoking can also increase your risk of tooth loss and weaken your gums, causing them to pull back from the teeth, exposing the nerves and increasing your risk of tooth decay.
Arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis and general inflammation in the body are seen in higher numbers in smokers than in non-smokers. Aches and pains in the joints may also come from inactivity, which is an inherent side effect of smoking.
Immune System: When you are inhaling carcinogen-rich smoke into your lungs, it requires the body’s defenses to work overtime to counter those mutagenic effects. This can put strain on your immune system as a whole, leading to more periods of illness and infection.
Sperm Production: Research has proven that smoking can restrict blood flow to the extremities of the body, including the reproductive organs, which negatively impacts sperm development. This can reduce fertility in men and increase the likelihood of birth defects in the fetus.
Obesity: Smoking makes breathing more difficult, making physical activity more of a task. This leads to more physical inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle; combined with high blood pressure and negatively impacted cholesterol, smoking definitely helps contribute to obesity.
Diabetes: Developing diabetes is often associated with high blood pressure, physical inactivity and obesity. Furthermore, some studies have shown that smoking can be a direct cause of Type 2 diabetes.
How to Get Rid of Tobacco Addiction?
The many people reading this who have attempted to quit in the past know how difficult it can be. Nicotine cravings can be intense, and by denying yourself cigarettes, it can cause mood swings, appetite fluctuation, weight gain, anxiety, and many other difficult obstacles. Recent research shows that 3 out of 4 smokers are still smoking 40 years later, meaning that the best way to quit smoking is to never start. However, for those who have been looking for a way to quit, there are plenty of effective remedies.
Setting a Date
It is important to keep yourself accountable if you are serious about quitting. Setting a final date when you will definitely stop smoking is important. Always saying, “I’ll quit someday soon” will lead to even deeper levels of the addiction, while making excuses only weakens your resolve in future quitting attempts.
There are many personal triggers for smoking, such as hanging out in certain places, or with certain people, as well as activities like driving with the windows open or hanging out on your front porch. For the first month or two of quitting, do your best to avoid these triggers, as they will only make it easier to fall back into bad habits.
Meditation and Relaxation
Some people have found success in eliminating tobacco addiction with meditation, yoga and other relaxation techniques. This can help reduce withdrawal symptoms and fill your time and attention with something beneficial for your body and mind.
Tobacco addiction can often be linked to an oral fixation, and the lack of something to chew on or put in your mouth may make relapse into smoking much easier. Keeping chewing gum (or nicotine gum) in your pocket and having a stick whenever the craving for a cigarette arises can help you fight the temptation.
Physical activity is difficult for heavy smokers, so after quitting, joining a gym or setting up a workout routine can be very helpful. You will initially struggle, as the damage to your lungs and body might be severe after years of smoking. However, as you see your capacity and strength increase, the idea of smoking (and impairing your physical ability) will seem much less attractive!
Stop Buying Cigarettes
As simple as this sounds, if you simply refuse to buy any more cigarettes, it will help you quit! Some people want to have a backup pack in case they “really need one”, but that will only lengthen your habit and make it more difficult to quit for good.
Cigarettes are very expensive in some parts of the world, so saving all of the money you would have spent on cigarettes can be a compelling way to stay strong. If you smoke a pack a day, put the cost of a pack of cigarettes in a glass jar where you will see it every day. Saving that money will be an extra motivating factor not to go back to the habit.
Exhaustion and fatigue can wear down your willpower and make it easier to fall back into negative habits. In the weeks and months after you quit, get a proper amount of sleep, as your body will feel rested, and the idea of a cigarette in the morning will hopefully be unpleasant.
It is important to stay hydrated and keep your energy levels up when you quit smoking. Your body will be undergoing certain physiological changes in the months after you quit, so be sure to drink enough water, and promote the healing process. You also want to feel the positive change of not smoking, so staying at optimal health in other ways is important!
Having a positive attitude towards your decision to quit is crucial for a permanent elimination of tobacco addiction. Remind yourself of how far you’ve come, and what a great achievement it is to have quit for one day, one month, or a whole year. Maintaining a positive attitude and remembering all the benefits of not smoking will keep you on a smoke-free track.
Alcohol and Caffeine
Two of the most common trigger for smoking are alcohol and caffeine; morning cigarettes with coffee and smoking outside in beer gardens seem to be permanent tropes of smoking culture. If you feel like these triggers will send you back to the cigarettes, try to cut back on these lifestyle habits, at least for the first few months after quitting.
If none of these remedies work for you, there are many nicotine replacement therapy options you can try. These include nicotine patches, nicotine gum, nasal sprays and certain medications. However, some of these options eliminate the smoking, but not the addiction to nicotine (at least not right away).
Word of Caution
At times, quitting cannot be done alone. For people with a severe addiction to nicotine, or a history of substance abuse or addictive tendencies, professional help is always an option. Doctors and counselors around the world are trained in helping people quit smoking. Furthermore, if your withdrawal side effects are severe, including depression, extended illness, or extreme weight loss/gain, speak to a doctor to ensure that your quitting methods aren’t negatively affecting other areas of your health.